Monday, 13 February 2012

Greece backs bailout as Athens burns

The Greek capital resembled something like a war zone after a night of street battles, burning buildings and looted shops. The rioting was a backlash against government cutbacks needed to avert bankruptcy. The trouble is also a taste of what may be to come. In a midnight ballot the Greek parliament voted by a wide majority to back the 170 billion dollar package of measures. They include deep pay, pension and job cuts. The minimum wage alone will be cut by more than a fifth. Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos is defending the plans. SOUNDBITE: (English) Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos saying (English): "Most of the people see the vote as the measures, and that is why they are reacting to it, and rightly so, but the reality is that it puts Greece on a completely new footing in order to develop its economy again that is what we should all be focussed on right now." Forty-three lawmakers who rebelled by voting against were immediately expelled from their parties but many were unrepentant. SOUNDBITE: Socialist member of parliament (PASOK PARTY), Vasso Papandreou, saying (Greek): "After a long time, I voted with my conscience, and I feel happy with my conscience. I was expelled from PASOK but they cannot expel my opinions or my history." The bailout package was demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for funds to meet debt repayments. The alternative for Greece was a chaotic default which could shake the entire euro zone. But many Greeks believe their living standards are collapsing already and the new measures will only add to their misery. Greek state television reported violent scenes in other cities including Thessaloniki in the north, and the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete. Sunday's scenes of violence may be only the start before the new cutbacks begin to bite.

Paul Chapman, Reuters

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